If you’re looking for a lovely little outing that will take you out of Manhattan and across the water, hop on the Staten Island Ferry where the ride is swift and the view tremendous and take a trip to The Staten Island Museum.
My intention was to see the work of a contemporary artist unknown to me, Betty Bressi. Getting off the ferry, I followed the signs for the Staten Island Stadium and just a short uphill hike away (on ramps most of the trek) I saw the small three-story brick building that housed an odd but pleasing array of exhibits.
Taking the elevator to the second floor to see Bressi’s exhibit
I first passed a small glass display of delicate and decorative porcelain medallion plates that were the gift of Edith Susskind. Close at hand, I heard the sound of children’s high-pitched, raucous and excited voices mixed with the steady authoritative commands of the teachers and museum aides urging the children to clean up their mess, gather up their things and line up in their rows. They’d been encouraged to make their own creations in the style of Bressi’s work which included weaving colorful strips of patterned paper and punching out designs on an old Underwood typewriter that stupefied them.
Why? Because when they pressed lightly down on the keys nothing magically happened!
As museum workers efficiently began folding up tables, gathering up materials and putting things to right, now alone in the room I was delighted by the exuberance, creativity, and color of Bressi’s work — see for yourself *
At some point she found her style and her stride and dove in to manipulating paper, wire, and characters on the typewriter to create her magical pieces.
Though I love art, I am not artistic, but if I were, this is the piece I felt I might create if I only had the talent and eye of Ms Bressi.
The rest of this little museum (now in the midst of a capital campaign to build a larger place for all their artifacts and combine with Snug Harbor) offered budding naturalists a look at the wonders of nature in their Hall of Science filled with fluorescent rocks, the delicacy of birds in their habitats and some crazy oddities preserved in glass jars — rather creepy to me, but probably fascinating to the younger set.
Not being a naturalist, I was more engaged with their collection of Staten Island Ferries memorabilia — both the objects and the art that depicted the 100+ year-life of this maritime experience just a short subway ride away.
On this day I only had time to hustle back to the ferry and Manhattan — but not before sampling some of the easily accessible local eat’n’run restaurants across the street. Fully expecting to sample the wares at a small Spanish café (not the full-scale highly reviewed Beso’s close by, but a little nondescript dive) featuring chicken, goat and ribs, but my nose led me to A & S Pizzeria — a local hangout where the slices looked divine. I picked a delicious specialty slice, rich with finely chopped spinach and artichokes in a luscious Alfredo sauce. Thin crust and crisp, the dough was still chewy enough to not feel as if I was eating a cracker. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t order a whole pie!
With lots more to see and not enough time this time to explore, I’ll be back to visit Staten Island —
that Small Town in the Big City... and you should too.
* If you want to catch the Betty Bressi Retrospective, hurry — it's on view until April 8!